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Review: Shutter Island, Bright Star, Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Masquerades, Toy Story 3D and Crazy Heart

By Cinema, Reviews and Screenwriting

There’s some­thing very odd about the open­ing scenes in Shutter Island and it takes the entire film for you to put your fin­ger on it. Shots don’t match between cuts, there’s a stil­ted qual­ity to the dia­logue (too much expos­i­tion for a Martin Scorsese movie) and the pacing is off. For a while I found myself won­der­ing wheth­er Marty had lost the immense influ­ence of his great edit­or Thelma Schoonmaker, but there she is, still in the cred­its, as she has been for Scorsese since Raging Bull.

Several years ago, Scorsese played a prac­tic­al joke on me (per­son­ally, it felt like at the time) when an entire reel of The Aviator was treated to look like faded 1930s Technicolor – I went to the Embassy counter to com­plain and felt very sheep­ish to be told by Oscar, the pro­jec­tion­ist, that the dir­ect­or meant it that way. So, this time around I decided to trust the maes­tro and roll with the strange­ness and was rewar­ded with one of the best (and cleverest) psy­cho­lo­gic­al thrillers in many a year.

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Review: Lars and the Real Girl, The Eye, Never Back Down, Change of Address, Bonneville, ¿La Verdad? (The Truth?) and Definitely, Maybe

By Cinema and Reviews

Lars and the Real Girl posterIn past columns this review­er has pretty much uni­lat­er­ally labelled 27 year old Ryan Gosling as the new Marlon Brando (thanks to extraordin­ary per­form­ances in Half Nelson and The Believer) but it is unlikely that even Brando would have been brave enough to choose Lars and the Real Girl as one of his pro­jects. Lars is a slightly dam­aged young man, liv­ing in the gar­age of his fam­ily home in a snowy north­ern American town. Under pres­sure from the fam­ily and the com­munity to be a bit more nor­mal, Lars finds him­self a girl­friend on the Internet – an ana­tom­ic­ally cor­rect doll named Bianca.

A lovely, sweet film about accept­ance, love and judge­ment (lack of), Lars is anoth­er win­ner in a sum­mer of them. Gosling’s per­form­ance is a thing of won­der but it would­n’t be half as suc­cess­ful without great work from Paul Schneider, Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson to play off. Kudos to them all. Not to be missed.

The Eye posterThe Eye screened in Cinema 6 at Readings and was the most hand­some on-screen present­a­tion I have seen since I star­ted this gig: pin sharp focus, con­sist­ent light levels across the entire screen, no print dam­age and a per­fectly steady flicker-free image. It’s a shame that the film was such garbage but you take your pleas­ure where you can find it. (Flicker is the unac­know­ledged curse of poor pro­jec­tion. Watching a film without it is like walk­ing down Courtenay Place without the wind punch­ing you in the arm the whole way. You don’t real­ise how annoy­ing it is until it’s gone.)

Jessica Alba plays a blind con­cert viol­in­ist who gets a pair of haunted corneas in a trans­plant but instead of the real world she begins to see vis­ions of death all around her. Yet anoth­er tired remake of an asi­an hor­ror (this one came from Hong Kong ori­gin­ally) The Eye struggles and fails to jus­ti­fy its own existence.

Never Back Down posterNever Back Down is the ugly and offens­ive story of a high school kid (Sean Faris), angry and bit­ter after the death of his fath­er in a drunk-driving acci­dent he could have pre­ven­ted, who gets involved in the loc­al fight club and take on the bul­lies using mixed-martial-arts and the train­ing of a wise guru (Djimon Hounsou).

An arte­fact from a decrep­it and derel­ict cul­ture, I hated this film so much I left the theatre and imme­di­ately tried to loc­ate my Al-Qaeda applic­a­tion forms. Irredeemable.

200804101111.jpgBut at least I stuck it out to the end which is more than I can say for the dreary French rom-com Change of Address. I don’t often leave films early but after yet anoth­er scene fea­tur­ing sev­er­al double-entendres about the main char­ac­ters horn (he plays and teaches French Horn) I was­n’t sure wheth­er I was watch­ing an art movie or “Are You Being Served?”

Bonneville posterThere must be an audi­ence for Bonneville, a pleas­ant road movie fea­tur­ing the great Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Joan Allen, though the attend­ance on Monday night would indic­ate oth­er­wise. It’s a shame there was nobody else there as there was some pleas­ure to be got from watch­ing great screen act­resses work­ing togeth­er in a story that was . Our trio play three mor­mon women (of vary­ing degrees of devo­tion) who are car­ry­ing the ashes of Lange’s hus­band to his estranged daugh­ter in California. Traversing the back­roads of Idaho, Utah and Nevada in the con­vert­ible that gives the film its name, they meet some inter­est­ing people, have some adven­tures and learn a bit about each oth­er. Nothing start­ling but per­fectly pleasant.

La Verdad stillOpening Thursday for a lim­ited engage­ment is Helen Smyth’s remark­able loc­al doc­u­ment­ary about Cuba, ¿La Verdad? (The Truth?). On an exten­ded hol­i­day in Cuba in 2000 Smyth met a delight­ful old gen­tle­man named Nestor and spent sev­er­al weeks inter­view­ing him about his life before and after the revolu­tion. He iden­ti­fied him­self as an inde­pend­ent journ­al­ist and said he was too old to get any atten­tion from the secur­ity police so he could write what he liked and sup­port the counter-revolutionary organ­isa­tions in Miami. Well, the truth was infin­itely more inter­est­ing than even that.

The film is a lively test­a­ment to a good journ­al­ist’s instinct for a story as she finds her­self unrav­el­ling lay­ers of intrigue and learn­ing about more than a cen­tury of U.S. involve­ment in Latin America – all thanks to a chance meet­ing on a bus. Special men­tion must also be made of the pho­to­graphy, par­tic­u­larly Geoff Marsland’s Super 8 foot­age of mod­ern Cuba which adds so much to the fla­vour of the piece.

Definitely, Maybe posterFinally, a sur­pris­ing win­ner called Definitely, Maybe: anoth­er romantic com­edy from the Working Title stable (Love Actually , etc). Ryan Reynolds (Smokin’ Aces) plays Will, about to divorce his wife. Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) is his 9 year old daugh­ter and, under­stand­ably upset about this turn of events, she demands to know how this could hap­pen. Were they nev­er in love? Will tells her the story of his romantic life (chan­ging the names) so she can see how com­plic­ated grown-up rela­tion­ships are. Which of the three sig­ni­fic­ant oth­ers over the peri­od 1992 to 1998 (Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz and Isla Fisher) becomes Mom? It’s actu­ally a lot more eleg­ant than I’ve made it sound, and well-observed, too, about lots of things (not least Presidential polit­ics). I’d watch it again, and I don’t think that very often.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 9 April, 2008 (although for cov­er photo reas­ons Aaron made The Eye the lead).

Notes on screen­ing con­di­tions: Lars and the Real Girl screened at a pub­lic pre­view in Penthouse 3; The Eye was almost per­fect in Readings 6 (coin­cid­ent­ally that is the Readings digit­al cinema so maybe the 35mm got a tweak recently); Never Back Down was a pub­lic mat­inée screen­ing at Readings; Change of Address was in the Bergman at the Paramount and the print was look­ing its age; Bonneville was in the Vogue Lounge at the Penthouse which has no digit­al sound and the sound was very poor – blown-speaker poor; ¿La Verdad? (The Truth?) was screened at home from a pre­view DVD and Definitely, Maybe was anoth­er pub­lic Readings mat­inée. I have to say for all their faults in terms of atmo­sphere the tech­nic­al con­di­tions at Readings are gen­er­ally excellent.